In the world of high society, there is an unwritten rule that single women are not to be invited to dinner parties. Some say most hosts don’t like odd numbers at a table; others accept married women by themselves -when the husband is otherwise engaged-, but certainly no singles or divorcees. But the most common reason, everyone agrees, is that wives don’t want competition and are petrified of their husband’s “wandering eye” toward a younger or more attractive version.
Some hostesses take this rule to heart and will disinvite their friend in the midst of a nasty divorce as in: “Darling, sitting is complicated, let’s have lunch together!” and as most of the time, women are the ones who make the guest list and send out the invitations, there will be no un-attached lady in the group. No matter what.
Where is the sisterhood when one needs it?
The more daring and avant-garde hosts and hostesses who do welcome ladies by themselves have a stable of single men or men-couples who are called upon to fill in when necessary to keep the table to an even number, make the sitting arrangement balanced. They go to great lengths to achieve this table-setting nirvana, ensuring that one single person is practically sitting in the kitchen, far away from any possible temptation.
For those like myself who don’t care about the numbers, sitting an odd number of guests is simply how to make my guests comfortable and happy. There is no odd one out at my table! I have had instances where we are four ladies and one man; often, there are three men and two ladies, and recently it is all about five women and three men. The combination doesn’t matter; we are all friends and love spending time with each other.
As the host, the place on my right side is the honored seat, which normally goes to the most senior man. The left side goes to the single woman. I want to make her feel that she is important to me.
On some occasions, I take the worst seat, giving my guests the best ones… not that there is a “bad” seat at home; it is just that I need to be closest to the kitchen as I have to get up to prepare, serve and clear. Sitting next to me is not ideal, as my seat will be empty for part of the meal.
When you find yourself with odd numbers, don’t worry. Many women love sitting next to their girlfriends and will have a livelier conversation gossiping about clothes…. or men. Frankly, sometimes it is a better seat than next a grumpy guy who only wants to talk about golf or dogs. By the same token, men would be happy to sit next to each other and discuss how much money they are making on the market. Yes, it’s a thing.
This disparity is not so noticeable if you have a round table; the odds are more obvious on a rectangular or oval one. Regardless, make the seating arrangement so that no one feels left out. And for goodness sake, move the odd empty chair away from the table.
There is no reason to avoid odd numbers at the table. And if you look at gardening and architecture and…. follow the astral charts, you’ll notice that odd numbers are luckier and more balanced than even ones. So, embrace the odds, I say!
It amazes me that in this day and age, still, singles or divorcees of a certain age are considered “persona non-grata” in many social situations. Do all these grand hostesses think married couples don’t stray from the fold or play outside the petri dish or that flings are only among single people? Is their marriage so fragile that all temptation must be banished?
I don’t know.- Every marriage is its own world.
I can tell you that many second and third marriages occur when we play musical chairs, and you always get the same seat. If I had an issue (which I don’t), I would be much more worried about an unhappily married wife who is clearly on the prowl for an upgrade rather than a single woman who has no interest in anyone’s husband. What makes them think that the aim of every divorcee is to do it all over again?
Being in a relationship or not should not be a distinguishing mark of achievement or acceptance. Individuality, independence…. and charm are, in my opinion, better marks of distinction.
And so, with this, I leave you.
The Serial Hostess
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